I AM CORNHOLIO!!
Around these parts I'll be the first to admit that I'm arguably the biggest John Kerry-esque flip flopper when it pertains to Jim Christian's coaching abilities. This season alone I went from declaring him a genius who had finally turned the thing around, to damning him for losing the team, to forgiving him because he just doesn't seem to have what it takes to be a program builder, and then coming full circle on him after the MWC Tournament by genuinely contemplating how and why we will win the Conference next year and make the NCAAs. In other words, I really just don't know what to make of him. But, the bottom line on him is that he values the whole team aspect as much as any coach in the country and isn't afraid to sit his most talented player if he's not buying in. However, he's never had much to work with in the whole recruiting department and that has been a yearly downfall. Which is what makes the ramifications of the past few weeks so derned intrestin'.
First came the news that 4-Star recruit LeAntwan Luckett of Mississippi, considered one of the top remaining prospects in the 2011 class, was offered by the Frogs. Luckett is a shooting guard and if worst comes to worst and Ronnie Moss does not return to the team next year, a player of Luckett's caliber would make an immediate impact. Perhaps the biggest upside to Luckett is the fact that he's considered a "slasher" and "gets to the rim" with his "tremendous athleticism," which would hopefully take the heat off of Hank Thorns to do the same in late game situations. Of course, the article had me at "Above average defender" because, good god that would fill an area of need for this team. The knock on Luckett is that he may not qualify academically and is looking at going the JUCO route to get his bearings. Also, he's not a great outside shooter. However, Luckett would arguably be one of the most heralded recruits to set foot in Fort Worth basketball wise since Corey Santee. He's still considering Colorado, Missouri State and the Frogs and will announce his decision later this spring.
Around the same time as that story broke, TCU finally received a commitment for the 2011 class from JUCO transfer Aldrick McKinney, originally of Fort Worth. The fact that we didn't receive ONE commitment until after the season ended may and probably should bother you, but when you go 1-15 in conference play, your options have a way of limiting themselves. Besides, we only lost two players from last year's team, so there wasn't a whole lot of scholarship room anyway. And on the bright side, McKinney is a big body at 6'8" and will be able to slide underneath with Nikola Cerina and create at least a semblance of a post presence, which is one of the myriad things we so desperately lacked this past season. McKinney probably isn't the guy who is going to put us over the top, but if we're only going to sign a small class this year, size should be the focus of Christian and his staff.
Building on the momentum of actually having an athlete put pen to paper, Christian then turned his efforts to Edmond, OK native Josh Richardson, a 3 star SG recruit who also holds offers from Missouri State, Georgia Tech and soon to be Conference foe Providence. I'm not sure what's with the Frogs going to head to head with Missouri State on two of these guys, but considering they were a major bubble team heading into the tournament and their coach was just hired away by Tennessee, I'd say that's a good problem to have. The fact that said coach skipped town for the bright lights of Knoxville, you'd have to think we have an edge on both Richardson and Luckett, no? And on the Georgia Tech note - they may not be the program they were when Chris Bosh left them, but they're still an ACC school in fertile recruiting territory and it will only be a matter of time before they're challenging Duke and UNC for conference titles again. And like Missouri State, they lost their coach as well. I'd think the number of recruits we've stolen away from an ACC school - Thorns doesn't count - is somewhere in the neighborhood of 0 and -0. Anyway, Richardson has already taken a campus visit along with his parents, so that has to signify serious interest and intent, so let's keep our fingers crossed that he'll be wearing purple and white next season.
Then over the weekend, in perhaps the biggest development of Christian's career, Queensborough, NY native Ryan Rhoomes took an official visit over the weekend and is said to be very close to committing to the Frogs. Rhoomes is a 6'9" Power Forward who, unlike Amric Fields, plays with his back to the basket and, moreso than McKinney, would slip into a starting role next season. Of course, as it is with a lot of these late season recruits, Rhoomes purportedly has academic questions that he needs to iron out before setting foot on campus, but he is said to have boosted his test scores over his senior year. Rhoomes is a terrific scorer and rebounder and would give us our first true post presence since... since... I can't even say. Of course, as a fledgling TCU basketball fan I realize the inherent silliness is getting my hopes up, but Rhoomes himself seemed to give the Frogs an edge based on the early playing time that would be available to him next season. The opportunity to hone his skills in a weakened MWC before we take our talents to the Big East is pretty appealing as well. I'm not counting him among the team until he's on campus and practicing, but all signs point to Ryan being on campus next year.
So what is driving all of this late interest? It's certainly not the 1-15 conference record. And while grabbing an unheralded JUCO star, getting close to signing a 3-star from a neighboring state and drawing interest from a 4-Star with grade issues doesn't necessarily draw any sort of conclusion, take a look at the list of schools Rhoomes is considering and you'll find your answer: Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Providence, Virginia Tech, and West Virginia have offered the kid, and he's also considering Seton Hall and Providence. Yep, all Big East schools. While we all expected the Big East move to help recruiting eventually, I don't think anyone would have expected us to steal a kid away from a slew of Big East schools this late in the game before the move has even been made. And it's not just Rhoomes - New York PG Shaquille Stokes is also on our radar. Let's just hope the Frogs newfound New York state of mind pays off.
One of the things we don't give Christian the benefit of the doubt on enough is the fact that he had NOTHING to work with when he got to campus. Once Daugherty realized the differences between recruiting for Kansas and TCU, what with the need for creativity, the ability to look beyond the Rivals star system and, you know, actual recruiting skills, he simply gave up and let his son run the show. And while Christian had SOME momentum going before and after his first season, recruiting has always been a major issue to overcome. If we can sign Rhoomes and/or Stokes, it would appear that the stigma surrounding our program can no longer be blamed for poor recruiting. Christian may end up not being the guy to carry us to the promised land, but now he'll actually have a fighting chance. Let's not write him off just yet.